I Realized My Daughter Wasn’t an Introvert Like Me, so I Had to Change
Shy is my middle name. OK, it's actually Dawn, but it should be my middle name. Honestly, just being around people makes me blush, and the thought of spontaneously speaking to people is terrifying. We can quibble on what to call it — introverted, shy, socially anxious. Regardless, I have always preferred to stay home with my family/husband/a good book than venture out in the land of strangers.
Then, I had kids. And I wasn't allowed to do that anymore.
I mean, I could have. I could have kept them home, rejected the idea of play dates, and absorbed them into my own little bubble. They wouldn't have known the difference, and it would have been much easier for me. And I think that was my plan in the beginning. I would take my daughter to the park during the lull times so she had the whole thing to herself, and I would chase her myself. I absolutely loved those moments.
Then, as she got closer to 2 years old, I noticed that she loved going to the grocery store. She would wave at everyone we passed and beam her gorgeous toddler smile. Little kids fascinated her, and she would wave and wave until she couldn't see them anymore, craning her neck to see around me as I pushed the cart down the aisle.
I wasn't being fair to her by not getting her out into the world more often. She needed to be around kids, even though her father and I fancied ourselves her perfect playmates. But we weren't 19 months old. She needed to learn what it was like to be her own age and how other kids played and interacted.
This meant I had to come to grips with putting myself out there — something I had avoided for a very long time. Being a military family, we don't live near family, so I couldn't fall back on cousins or friends from my adolescent years. I just had to start fresh, stick my neck out there, and say, “Hey, you seem like a really nice person. I'm also a nice person, and I have a toddler, too. Want to hang out?”
It works! I met a really awesome friend with a little girl of her own, and my daughter and hers hit it off fabulously. I have videos of the two of them chasing each other around my living room — the slowest chase ever, toddler style. Then, such is the military lifestyle, she moved away, and my daughter and I were back to being just the two of us.
But I did it again. And again. And then I enrolled her in gymnastics, which let her be around lots of little kids but also allowed me to slink back into my introverted mode. I watched her jump on the trampoline and giggle with other uncoordinated girls while I reveled in my silence and alone time.
It was all about compromise. I didn’t have to take her to big play groups with lots of people that made me uncomfortable. I was able to garner a few friends with like-minded interests and same-aged kids. Eventually, she was old enough to attend organized events, which brought her structure and plenty of kids to interact with.
My little one loves people, crowds, social events, and chaos, while I enjoy intimate gatherings, reading, alone time, and calm. There was a way to keep both of us happy — it just took us a little while to find it.